Magazine article Filmmaker

Long-Term Care

Magazine article Filmmaker

Long-Term Care

Article excerpt

Your film is done. Audiences have laughed and cried while watching it. You got a week-long run in New York and Los Angeles. Soon your aunt in Springfield will be able to watch it on Netflix and have a strained telephone conversation about how "interesting" it is. Onto the next project!

Not so fast. You need to archive your film now. Put down your storyboard for your next picture and help preserve your old one first.

The Film Foundation estimates that "one half of all films made before 1950, and over 80 percent made before 1929 are lost forever." Reasons vary from the bleak commercial prospects of silent film in the sound era to the cost of proper archival storage. The silver content in the physical film print was seen as more valuable than whatever film it held. We collectively lost an important part of our culture and a capsule into the origins of the art that we all hold dear. With the rise of digital filmmaking, the neurotic part of myself worries late at night that we've entered a similar archiving dark age due to the breakneck speed of innovation and the immaterial nature of digital media. Between hard drives and the cloud, what are the best practices to ensure that your project isn't lost?

Gene Fredericks is consulting with the New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) on developing a digitizing facility to help archive over 40 years of community-created media. Community film organizations such as NOVAC, Bay Area Video Coalition and DCTV in NYC are also doing this work to preserve the content created by underrepresented communities.

Fredericks has been in the business of archiving video workfor decades and rattles off an alphabet soup of antiquated tape formats as he gives me a tour of the office where he has shelves of beige tape decks connected to sleek new iMacs. His archiving polices are sound practices for any filmmaker:

* Keep several different copies of your film in different geographic locations.

* Use a wide variety of different formats that will stand the test of time.

* Consider what your needs are depending on your project. A documentary filmmaker might have journalistic obligations where she is forced to keep a lot more of her footage vs. a narrative filmmaker where she just wants to keep a rough work print and the final cut.

The physical location of your film is paramount. If you live anywhere near the coast, you're a strong storm away from a flooding event. Midwest? You know how to prep for a tornado. Fredericks suggests keeping three different backups in three different physical places: "You should prepare for two natural disasters and one unnatural, and, yes, that includes ghosts." The joke about ghosts is a real concern: sometimes things just break. You need to find a dry, climate-controlled space where you can stash your archive, which could range from a high-end storage unit to the drawer in your childhood bedroom.

There are also several larger organizations that are looking to help you store your archives. If your film played Sundance or was supported by any of its artist development programs, the Sundance Institute Collection at the University of California, Los Angeles Film and Television Archives will store your film free of charge and provide video copies for researchers.

Didn't play Sundance? Need help finding an archive? IndieCollect (www.indiecollect. org) is an organization dedicated to not only archiving independent American cinema, but they will also help you locate long-term archival storage for your film. Thanks to a Ford Foundation startup grant, their future goals are ambitious: an index collecting every American independent film and online streaming of archival titles.

What if your backups could be everywhere you needed them to be? Cloud-based storage offers users that possibility. A brief explanation for both you and Rocky Balboa: The cloud is a mirrored backup of your files that exist on both your local hard drive on your computer and at a remote data center. …

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